20 NEWS II Garda 2

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Arthur Carron

Insurance companies paid out more money last year to motorists injured in accidents who made claims though the State’s Injuries Board.

The number of motor awards settled in 2016 was up 8pc on the previous year.

A total of 9,564 compensation awards were made for traffic accidents, a rise from 8,815 the year before. The cost of settling these claims also increased.

Motor claims make up three out of four of the awards made by the Injuries Board.

Just over €233m in motor awards was processed by the board, up from €201m.

The rise in value of awards agreed by the Injuries Board comes after surges of up to 70pc in the cost of motor premiums.

A total of 19,633 motor claims were made to the Injuries Board last year. This was down by almost 180 from the previous year, the annual report for the body shows.

Two weeks ago insurance companies, brokers and the industry representative body were raided by EU competition regulators over claims that they are operating a cartel here.

Motor insurers have cited rising levels of claims and the cost of settling them as a key reason for imposing massive hikes in premiums.

The cost of the average payout for a motor claim rose by close to €1,000 to €22,500, a comparison between the 2016 and the 2015 annual Injuries Board reports shows.

Every injury claim has to go through the board but a case can be forced into the courts by failing to co-operate with it.

The board, which is a State body, does not pay lawyer fees and is up to seven times cheaper for settling a claim than going to court.

It was set up to counter the high legal costs of cases being heard in the courts.

The cost of using the Injuries Board for insurers is a fraction of the cost of settling the claims directly, and it costs multiples of the Injuries Board to have cases heard in court.

But only 20pc of claims are settled through the Injuries Board, with 10pc going to court and 70pc settled privately by insurers.

The 2016 report for the Injuries Board shows that 34,056 people applied to it for compensation, a 1.5pc rise on the previous year.

Last year it made close to 13,000 awards for compensation. This was 1,232 more than in 2015.

The value of all awards made by the board shot up by almost €47m to €315m. The highest award was for €740,968.

Motor claims make up three-quarters of all awards, but there has been a rise in the numbers and the cost of settling public liability and employers’ liability claims. The board charges insurers a €600 fee for each case, with claimants charged €45.

Board chairman Dermot Divilly said guidelines published last year had updated the range of compensation payouts for different types of injuries.

Known as the ‘Book of Quantum’, the guidelines “help bring about more predictable and consistent personal injuries awards settlements in Ireland”.

Changes to legislation are planned to make it more difficult for those making personal injuries claims to avoid using the Injuries Board. Minister for Enterprise Frances Fitzgerald has published a bill which aims to strengthen the low-cost claims settlement model that the Injuries Board provides.

Charlie Weston and Kevin Doyle

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